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Get a Grip on Shipping Grub

Jul 23, 2020 9:00:00 AM

What shippers need to know to meet the growing consumer appetite for mail-deliverable foods.

The surge in online purchases during COVID-19 is partly due to the need to feed. While quarantines and lockdowns can be broken if consumers need to go on a grocery run, many are choosing to play it safe, stay home and have their food shipped to them.

To put things into perspective, durable foodstuffs like pasta, canned/crushed foods and evaporated milk have seen sales growth around 600%, 316% and 287% respectively. Even foods at the lowest end of the sales boom are seeing more than 100% increases in online ordering. Businesses that generate any revenue from online food orders need to be on top of their game to get a slice of these spiking sales.

It’s not only tinned options from the grocery store that are being delivered. Plenty of perishables are also being ordered, and these require more care from shippers. We always recommend contacting your carrier for the correct practices for a particular food shipment, but in the meantime, here are some best practices for keeping contents and customers safe.

Comfort customers through pre-shipping prep

The current pandemic has added, if not an extra dimension, then certainly heavier emphasis on the first step of shipping food: How it’s handled before and during packaging. In the past, consumers liked to think that all hygiene standards were being met before their order was posted. They’re now adamant in their desire for reassurance that food sellers run a super-clean operation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides comprehensive guidance for any business selling food during the COVID-19 pandemic. These best practices should be followed, and a notice should be clearly displayed in your place of operation and/or website that your staff and shippers are fully compliant. This guarantee will give your business a better chance of calming customer fears and earning their business.

The right way to package food — resilience and temperature

Safely shipping perishable foodstuffs breaks down into three consideration:

  • The right packaging
  • The right temperature
  • The right shipping method

Because perishables are often heavy or awkward, use the sturdiest packaging possible (and avoid reusing boxes) combined with generous interior padding and an airtight exterior. Bubble wrap, packing peanuts, boxes-within-boxes and lots of crumpled newspaper can all be effective individually as interior protection.

Interior padding of at least 2 to 3 inches is generally effective for protection and meeting carrier standards. Creating airtight packaging can be as simple as inserting the food into a vacuum pack or plastic container. If those aren’t options, covering the box tightly in well-secured plastic wrap creates a barrier to keep contents fresher longer.

Temperature management is essential and can be achieved using several techniques. Keeping foods cool prevents spoilage, and ice packs, gel packs and dry ice are all common, reliable solutions. (Dry ice has special requirements since it’s measured at -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The UPS guide to shipping with coolants and refrigerants provides information on maximum weights and proper exterior labeling for the notification and protection of carriers and recipients, while Dry Ice Info neatly breaks down the right ice content by transit time plus weight ratio. FedEx provides its own specialized service called Temp-Assure, which can handle all aspects of cold shipping for you.

A layer of internal airtight packaging is recommended to contain any possible leakage/melting that may occur in transit and to insulate foodstuffs from any potentially corrupting content in the cooling materials.

Shipping with the right partner in the right way

FDA regulations come into play again at the shipping stage, with strict rules food shippers must follow or incur significant penalties. Shippers using UPS, FedEx or another parcel carrier can rest a little easier, since meeting these regulations is the carrier’s responsibility, but questions should always be asked regarding FDA rules.

There are three other golden rules for food shipping:

  1. Select the fastest method possible: It’s generally accepted that no food package’s journey should exceed 30 hours, so consider shipping options like UPS Next Day/Second Day Air or any of FedEx’s First, Priority or Standard overnight options.
  2. Dispatch food packages at the start of the week: Stalled delivery over the weekend can see a food order go to waste.
  3. Keep an eye on package progress: It’s important to track the package for you, and your customer's, own peace of mind. This requires the kind of Premium Transportation Tracking that 71lbs can provide. It also makes a much better impression on your customers than the outmoded FedEx and UPS style pages.

Our team can provide much more than top-level tracking, including insurance to protect your packages and help securing refunds if carriers are even 60 seconds late with a delivery. Get in touch for the full menu of 71lbs services!

At 71lbs, we focus on two things: a) helping customers save money on shipping, and b) helping customers understand their shipping costs. We provide refunds and savings on shipping insurance, freight and imports, among other benefits. Our automated dashboard displays easy-to-understand shipping costs and insights so you can make better business decisions. Drop by the contact page to get in touch!

Topics: shipping food, Packaging, food prep, shipping options

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